Over the past few months, the Faculty Student Council, Works Council, representatives of the four Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG) domains (Social Sciences, Communication Science, Child Development and Education, and Psychology) and the dean have had a number of conversations about requests and suggestions which could bring about quality improvements at the faculty and the UvA.
Below we set out the main problems identified by students and lecturers, and the possible solutions put forward to address them.
The layout of the new REC B/C/D building has increased the division between lecturers and students. Closed doors between departments have added to this segregation. The various FMG Dialogues organised by the FMG Faculty Student Council and study associations revealed that students had a problem with this. The FMG Faculty Student Council has raised this with the faculty and the connecting doors have been left open for more than two months now.
During the FMG Dialogues and the Future Vision debate a clear message emerged that students and lecturers feel it is important to ensure that education is accessible and that it remains so. The Executive Board’s proposed decision to limit options for pre-Master’s programmes contradicts this request for accessibility. The FMG dean has raised this point with the Executive Board. As a result of this discussion, pre-Master’s programmes can be maintained without any problem, and the intake of higher education with an applied emphasis (HBO) students will remain unhindered. Pre-Master’s programme students can continue to join regular Bachelor’s programmes, which means the financial options for these programmes remain in place. This accessibility also satisfies the call for greater diversity within the faculty.
The various protests and debates frequently referred to ‘profit-based mentality’ to express dissatisfaction about the basis and quality of teaching. Because teaching is funded based on pass percentages, study points achieved and other measurable factors, pressure has emerged to have students pass within the allocated time + 1 year. This has hindered the development of students. The point will be raised with the Executive Board.
The FMG dean will also talk to the Executive Board about the desirability of putting ‘teaching’ – one of the core functions of the university – on an equal footing with ‘research’ – the other core function. By making promotion opportunities, as well as salaries, dependent on research results universities create the impression, perhaps inadvertently, that research is important and teaching comes second. This is particularly odd considering that most of the university’s funding depends on educational achievements rather than research achievements. It adds up to a perverse effect on many academics, which is to lessen their inclination to carry out teaching work, and increase their inclination to carry out research. It is no accident that people talk about the ‘burden’ of teaching.
Over the past academic year, both students and lecturers have indicated that they would like a better balance of harmonisation and autonomy. The various FMG directors will be looking at how they can deliver this balance within their respective domains. It is important to do this per domain, to ensure that the balance is appropriate to each environment.
Central contracts signed with caterers such as Eurest are seen as being contrary to the idea of autonomy within faculties. The dean will therefore raise this with the Executive Board before it issues a new tender for catering.